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    • I've been a fan of Louie Psihoyos for a long time as a National Geographic photographer and guy with a big conscience who wants to make a difference in the world. I loved seeing him win his Academy Award for Best Documentary, The Cove.

      I've also been fascinated for a long time with the competing theories of food as it applies to sports performance and health. It feels like 95% of the public believes protein is essential and the best source is meat. It also felt like 95% of credible food scientists believe the best source is plants.

      I don't know why more people aren't obsessed like I am because so much depends on it: Olympic medals, Superbowls, heart attacks, weight, erectile dysfunction — and even the macro question of why the majority of people believe something very different than what so many scientists believe.

      So when Louie agreed to direct Game Changers and James Cameron agreed to produce it, they had my attention. I've watched a lot of smaller budget docs on health like Forks Over Knives, but the big guns were coming to the party this time.

      The star of the show is actually former UFC fighter, James Wilks, who co-wrote and narrated it. I didn't expect him to be so knowledgeable and present so well. Seems like a perfect personna for the job because he's badass and likeable.

      In my opinion, the best parts of the film were like high school science class experiments. Great science teachers do fascinating demos in class you never forget. In this film, they took young, model-of-health pro athletes and fed them a burrito with either chicken or beef in it. Two hours later they took blood samples and centrifuged them to separate out the plasma and show how the fat bomb exploded into their bloodstream and created inflammatory markers.

      The next day they gave them bean burritos and showed them how dramatically different their blood became.

      They did the same, tastefully, with erections. I know, awkward, but it was a hilarious part of the film and super convincing.

      Plant based athletes like Tom Brady are beginning to turn heads with their performances and I loved that part of the film. They got to interview a lot of them. This guy was my hero, tho. He's 60 and does pullups like buttah:

    • I saw this a few years ago at Hot Docs festival. I agree it was convincing, but at the same time recognize that the demonstrations were pretty unscientific, so I’m slightly distrustful of it. Especially given the recent announcement that the existing studies about the impact of meat are too low grade to be reliable. On the other hand, I also figure there isn’t anything to lose by reducing meat intake, so why not give the benefit of the doubt.

    • I became quite preoccupied a while back with trying to do everything in my powers to live a healthier life. Who isn't? But each in our own ways. The only ones who aren't are in my opinion are those who in their cavalcade of daily life cannot afford to dedicate time and efforts to live as healthy as should be.. It is extremely difficult to trust any information on internet, or mass media. My personal belief is that it's all driven by either big food industry, or one smaller interest over another. Somewhere in there, there certainly could be a truth, but unfortunately it's all too blended or overly simplified, presented with emphasis on desired things.. I will say that eating just few days only vegetables even if with some dairy proteins, I am able to confirm the benefits, because I feel them! And that is the compass I try and follow.

    • I’m certainly not going to do everything I can lead a healthier life. I think there’s a balance between leading an enjoyable life and a healthy life, and each person has to find that for them self. The healthiest life possible sounds like a real chore to me. I’ll meet health somewhere in the middle, thanks.

    • That approach makes some sense to me, until a person loses their health (or their life!) due to a preventable illness.

      There are so many options within the umbrella of health that I don’t often find myself constrained. If I don’t enjoy running, I can hike or swim for exercise. If I think beets taste like dirt, I can find vegetables I prefer.

      Being sick isn’t enjoyable for me, so I’d rather feel stronger and more energetic and skip the junk food. As you said, everyone decides for themselves but I think many underestimate the burden their freedom of choice places on them in the form of joint pain, health care costs, chronic medication, etc.

    • That was an element of the movie I thought they handled well. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that there has to be an easy, gradual way in to get to the level you are comfortable with — maybe just meatless Mondays, at least to start.

      The other thing was — especially for the football players and firemen — finding delicious, satisfying recipes.

    • Hopefully we are all past the addictions to taste of food, and the compromises we make get smaller and smaller as we age. But definitely not with junk food. That's the way I look at it. I didn't eat a steak in three weeks and really no longer crave it. Because really, on the surface, that's all the food gives us - taste and the sensory experience! My question is, does our body *know* when it's asking us to have steak that is something we *need* ? Doubtful, but not so easy to answer either, imho. Nutrition unfortunately can't be separated from our food primeval consumption experience and administered scientifically, not just yet, and perhaps won't happen in our lifetime.

    • As an athlete, I completely relate to the protagonists of the movie. What separates the best from the rest is a narrow margin of performance. Minutes, but often seconds is all it takes to get on the podium. I've been in these situations many times, losing and winning by seconds after hours and hours of racing.

      Fast recovery is the key to performance improvements. If the nutrients found in plants speed up recovery, then why not eat more of them?

      The most compelling parts of the documentary were from the evolutionary and archeological examples. Our digestive tracts are four times longer than those in carnivores (meat-eaters). It is similar to herbivores (plant-eaters). The teeth in our jaws evolved for grinding instead of shredding. Those evolutionary adaptations are there for a reason.

      The 7-day challenge that Rip Esselstyn proposed to his fellow firefighters doesn't sound like a massive undertaking. A week of healthy eating instead of yet another crash diet is worth trying, in my opinion.

    • What I remember most is the 7-day challenge for New York firefighters. The son of a prominent cardiologist and a firefighter himself had a statistic like 62% of firefighters who die in the line of duty die of a heart attack. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was high.

      They bought groceries for the firefighters and gave them recipes, took blood samples and weight, and had them return in 7 days to see how much things had changed. The changes were startling. The average drop in cholesterol was around 30 points, but firemen with elevated levels lost as much as 100 points during the week.

    • One thing I personally learned from discussing with friends who are medical doctors, was regarding cholesterol and the blood tests interpretations and advice, they often are quite different between EU and USA. This has always had me stop and think. And no, I am not a flat earth believer, just a person trying to see through the smoking mirrors put out by the money making machine of the so called "health industry".

    • One of the disturbing things about American health care is that the cardiology departments of hospitals are the #1 source of profitability, with bypass ops and stents being the overwhelming drivers. Imagine being a cardiologist and being able to charge $100K+ for bypass or $40K+ for stents, compared to trying to get your patients to eat better (~$0K). The thing is bypass ops and stents provide near-term relief but not long-term prevention.

      That's why I'm so impressed with surgeons like Caldwell Esselstyn in the film who forgo the revenue and spend so much time on prevention. It's like dentists who are willing to spend so much time working on prevention so you hang onto your original teeth instead of buying implants.

      The thing about documentary films like this is it's very rare to make money on them. The money, if there is any to be made, comes from monied interests who fund the film in hopes you vote for their issue or keep buying their sodas.

      It's hard to imagine a monied upside for this film because they want you to buy produce and there isn't much money in selling that. And none of them are involved in selling plant foods. I suppose you could imagine James Cameron had an agenda — the environment — but it's hard to see how he'd make his money back via this documentary by selling electric cars or solar panels.

    • The point that stuck out to me is all protein comes from plants. The animals pass it on, somewhat used, with a dose of toxicity added.

    • Thank you Chris! Just finished watching it. For me, the most shocking and compelling scenes are ones where blood test results indicate everyone's dramatic drops in cholesterol, as are their physical improvements. I love it how Arnold tells it! There just can't be any arguing against clear, measurable results like that. The anthropological and anatomical explanations make so much sense. The fact that so many successful and remarkable athletes took this route only helps reinforce the proof of this being a very rational thing to pursue.

    • Thanks, Dracula. There was one little trixsy thing they did for the sake of simplifying the story and that was to not get into refined plant food like Cheetos and donuts. Why this is significant is diets like Keto can produce good short term results in a meat-heavy protocol, because they nuke the cookies.

      What Game Changers did was to feed people whole plant food ingredients in their burritos — with meat and without. In our local high school, 20% of the girls are vegan and it sometimes means they stopped going to Taco Bell for lunch and instead go to Krispy Kreme and get donuts and Pepsis. They were better off going to Taco Bell and having some meat because at least the rest of it are things like beans.

    • I always take things such as health and financial advice with a grain of salt.. too bad so many seriously unhealthy food choices are still widely promoted without the risks clearly presented for general public's awareness. There would perhaps even come a time when donuts and cookies would get similar labeling as tobacco products did, but I guess we need to wait a while..

    • I just wish the world could know that heart disease and type 2 diabetes are food-borne illnesses that can be reversed through diet alone. When those words are spoken by even the top experts in the world who have data to back it up, it sounds too crazy to be true like it must be pseudo science so it never goes far.

      It reminds me of those two kooks from Australia who claimed ulcers were caused by stomach acid. Pheh. Everyone knew it was stomach acid. Buy some Rolaids. At least in that case they eventually found a dramatic experiment that proved the point and they got the Nobel Prize.

    • Deceit for profit, or for some kind of upperhand, whichever way they can, has always been attractive. There is so much "talk" on social media on topics so far out of league for so many, when in fact the decent thing to do would be admit dilettantism, and leave it to professionals to disseminate advice and information, in places where they actualy should do that.

    • @Chris i saw the movie based on your post here and also saw a “debunked” review of the movie :

      I did not find the movie credible. There were small suspicions I had watching it and I found this debunked video a lot more credible.

      Some of the issues I had included:

      1. Drop in Cholestrol after a short change in diet. I grew up in India where approx 50% of the population is vegetarian and if it were that simple I’d have noticed a vast difference in health outcomes. Even though I eat meat, we never grew up eating it everyday and now it is easy for me to go weeks / months without meat. I just don’t see a causal change in health as a result.

      2. I found myself often feeling “that could be true” but is it scientific / causal? The story about dolphins and suggesting causality between a winning season and change in diet. The UFC fight and suggestion that it was based on diet. The ropes for >60 mins. All of this felt like pseudo science to me.

      3. Even if I believed everything, I felt myself thinking about health outcomes. If the goal is to lose weight and get stronger then you need both calorie deficit and strength training along with protein. I have no doubt that plant based sources will provide the right amount/kind of protein, but I wondered if it is possible to get the same amount of protein per calorie on a plant based diet. This is something that the debunked video goes into. Jurek needed both protein and large amount of carbs. I also think meat is more filling and allows you more easily maintain a lower calorie diet.

      The best diet/health advice in my view is simply: Eat everything. In moderation. Exercise.

      There is no magic; thoughtfulness, moderation and consistency beats everything else.

      My 2cs.

    • Hi Dhiraj! Thanks for posting such a thoughtful response and for the pointer to Layne Norton and Holly Baxter. I've watched a few debunking videos, including Joe Rogan's YouTube podcast where he had Chris Kresser, author of a Paleo Diet book, do the debunking, and then a follow-up marathon episode where he had James Wilks from the movie debate Chris.

      The film does have weaknesses and I think I understand why, given what I know of the director Louie Psihoyos and how he likes to tell stories (simplified). He was a National Geographic photographer before directing The Cove, which won him an Academy Award.

      Weakness #1: Telling the story about gladiators eating a lot of plants. I think that gave the audience an impression of conveying shaky science because how can you really know? It was intended to convey what inspired James to get interested in the topic.

      #2: The stories of athletes. I know why they told the story that way (to get 100x the audience) , but really they are anecdotes.

      #3: To simplify the storytelling, Louie narrowed it to just animal protein. The trouble is, if we eschew meat for donuts and Pepsi, as many of the girls at our high school do, we're probably worse off.

      #4: The scientists behind the film are hidden because boring. But I know them extremely well and have read just about all they've written over the last two decades. I strongly recommend hearing from them instead of someone like Layne, who sells supplements and isn't actively involved in nutrition science:

      Example: Caldwell Esselstyn, who briefly appeared in the film. He started the Cleveland Clinic's prevention center for heart disease and has had such clients as Bill Clinton, whose quadruple bypass was clogging and faced another.

      Esselstyn published the results of 200 patients who gave their permission. These were patients who had histories of heart disease and couldn't have another operation or chose not to. The results were 199 showed no more signs of heart disease (including Clinton, but he wasn't one of the 200 whose results were published). The remaining person had a minor stroke. The very same protocol reverses type II diabetes in almost all cases, high cholesterol, high blood pressure.

      I know from having just given a TEDx talk how strict TED is with pseudo science and length, so here's Dr. Esselstyn at TEDx giving a talk half the length of Layne and Holly's. Yes, it's boring but it's astounding what he in association with Cleveland Clinic are able to do for the worst cases of advanced heart disease:

      ONe science consultant behind Game Changers, btw, is Dr. Greger. He has a wonderful book you can find on Amazon . He lives in the actual science all day every day. It's a great read.

    • @Chris I checked out Dr. Esselstyn talk. Thanks!

      I think part of the problem in this discussion is being specific about the questions we are trying to answer so let me try and do that here. I will answer based on my knowledge and opinions (to be changed as I learn more).

      Q. Is it possible to lead a very healthy life with a vegetarian/vegan diet?

      A. Yes, absolutely. I think anyone can get all nutrients from a purely plant based diet. In fact, I grew up on a North Indian largely vegetarian diet and if someone said that you can only have one meal combination for the rest of your life, I would choose yellow dal (yellow lentils), Okra and whole wheat rotis (side note: the only Indian restaurant that I know of that sells home cooked vegetarian North India food is Chaat House at Wolfe and El Camino in Sunnyvale. Check it out. Order the "thaali" - one with dal. You are welcome!).

      Q. Can a vegetarian diet be unhealthy?

      A. Yes, absolutely. Take the above meal I mentioned and use too much oil to cook the Okra/dal or add butter/ghee to the rotis; add lots of sugar to tea/coffee; eat a lot of dessert; and you will be unhealthy. Add to it lack of exercise, smoking etc. and no vegetarian diet will save you.

      Q. Can you both bulk up and lose weight on a vegetarian diet?

      A. It is possible but harder than with a diet that has meat. To achieve the above you need both protein and lower your calories. Meat (especially Chicken) has the highest protein per calorie. To bulk up you need protein. If you rely on plant based sources for protein, you will consume a lot more calories too and will therefore need to exercise even more to create the calorie defecit. Plus, meat fills you up more so staying a little hungry during a calorie defecit is easier with meat.

      Q. Can you be an elite athlete on a vegetarian diet.

      A. Yes, absolutely. And the movie provides plenty of examples. Boils down to nutrient and calorie intake and calories burned.

      Q. Is a vegetarian diet the panacea?

      A. NO! and I think this is where the movie and even Dr. Esselstyn's talk fall short - they try and suggest it as the panacea. If I added some meat to the vegetarian diet I suggested above, I would still be very healthy. There are many claims in even Dr. Esselstyn's talk that don't go into the full picture. Let me address them through a few questions.

      Q. Would going from a cheese/meat/refined bread diet to a vegetarian diet improve your health?

      A. Yes, absolutely. Dr. Esselstyn talked about the "living dead" and how changes in diet helped them. Makes perfect sense to me. But I don't see how you extrapolate from there that being vegetarian is the ONLY answer. He also did not talk about what the average diet looked like prior to the switch. He also talked about migration and how that had an impact. But moving from, say, Japan/India to US also brings with it so many more changes including (and I say this from experience having grown up in India) the role of women (moms) and cooking. The bucolic perfect vegetarian food (and all else that comes with it) is obtained by largely women/moms not joining the workforce. For immigrants, that family structure is broken and in general it is better that a larger number of women are more free to make those choices today and join the workforce. With extra pressures on time, I have seen how I have made poorer choices around food for easier cooking but I have still chosen to live in the US because there are many other benefits that outweigh the costs and now, with all the information around nutrition, we (as in men and women together) are trying to minimze those cost.

      Q. Can a good diet exist without vegetables (and fruit)?

      A. Absolutely not. Vegetables (and fruits) are key to health. I don't think you can deconstruct food into nutrients, fiber, etc and just take supplements and have the same health outcomes as a healthy well balanced diet. Our knowledge of the underlying components has improved a lot but I don't think we still understand the complexity of how all this comes together and how our body reacts to Okra/Eggplant/Apple/Peach. There is complexity through evolution in the vegetables and fruit and complexity in how our bodies react to them. So consuming them in their alomost original form is much better for health. My body is particularly sensitive to fiber and I feel much better getting it in natural forms than supplements.

      Q. How does all this relate to specific health/wellness goals a person might have?

      A1. If you are looking to simply maintain weight then a pure vegetarian diet can do just fine. But so can a balanced diet that has meat.

      A2. If you are looking to lose weight (calorie defecit) and bulk up (protein), a diet with both meat and vegetables is ideal. With possibly some supplements, especially fiber.

      A3. If your arteries are blocked, moving to a vegetarian diet, low/non-existent sugar/simple carbs, light exercicse will more than likely improve your condition. It might be a good idea to stay away from meat for sometime to get a break from all fats.

      Q. What are some best practices (note: this is simply how I think about it)?

      A. Sugar and simple carbs should be redcued. This is the one evil food. Though, in small quantities this too is fine. A tsp of sugar in your coffee once a day is not going to do any harm. But, 2 tsp / 5 times a day ... don't do that. Complex carbs are much better than simple carbs. Chicken has highest protein per calorie, and lowest in fat. Each day should be a good mix of protein, carbs (I don't buy carbs is bad dogma) and fat. Each of these macro nutrients can be quantified. For example a diet for an adult (weight / geneder play a role) with 100-125g protein, 125-150g carbs and 40-50g fat is a healthy diet. Some of these macros must come from vegetables and fruit. In short, eat everything, in moderation and exercise (and it is all measurable: measure all macros and calories consumed/burned).

      Q. Finally, what about environmental impact of meat?

      A. While the debunked video gave some numbers, I look at this:


      The biggest opportunities to move to lower greenhouse emission is transportation (thank you Tesla) and electricity generation ("Five states — Idaho, Vermont, Washington, South Dakota, and Oregon — and Washington, D.C., generate 70 percent or more of their power output from renewable sources."). In spite of the present POTUS, there is a lot happening on these fronts around the world. Even individually, putting on solar panels and driving an electric car (and not flying at all!!) is far more impactful than moving to vegetarian diets. (side note: flying is a great example of cost/benefit analysis. An individual's carbon footprint if they fly even once is larger than most anything else they do and yet we fly as net net it makes the world a better place by connecting people for both personal and professional reasons. We don't question the need for flying, do we?).

      OK, that's enough!! Clearly I have been ruminating / acting on this topic for sometime.

      Thanks for building a product that allows me to put it out there. Hopefully some people will thoughtfully challenge me and force to me improve/change my arguments.

    • I wouldn’t say all the credible food scientists & doctors are boring. Here is a TED talk from Dr. Barnard who is very respected in the fields of neurology and diabetes. He always backs up his claims with good, hard, credible science. He is approaching 5 million views for this talk because he explains things so well.

      Something that stands out to me when I watch people like Dr. Barnard speak is how good they look. This is a man in his 60s.

    • Q. Can you both bulk up and lose weight on a vegetarian diet?

      A. It is possible but harder than with a diet that has meat. To achieve the above you need both protein and lower your calories. Meat (especially Chicken) has the highest protein per calorie. To bulk up you need protein. If you rely on plant based sources for protein, you will consume a lot more calories too and will therefore need to exercise even more to create the calorie defecit. Plus, meat fills you up more so staying a little hungry during a calorie defecit is easier with meat.

      I also used to believe that chicken was the leanest meat and had the most amount of protein, until I learned about good marketing. Turns out there are plenty of other foods that have far more protein per calorie ratio.

      USDA Food Database states that Tempeh has 19.9 grams of protein for 195 calories , while Chicken has 15.6 grams of protein for 219 calories. Broccoli has 16.5 grams of protein for 200 calories (I did the calculations based on the 2.57 grams of protein per 32 calories).

    • Meat (especially Chicken) has the highest protein per calorie. To bulk up you need protein. If you rely on plant based sources for protein, you will consume a lot more calories too and will therefore need to exercise even more to create the calorie defecit. Plus, meat fills you up more so staying a little hungry during a calorie defecit is easier with meat.

      I also forgot to mention my favorite Chicken replacement for salads and stir-fry: Tofurky Chick'n. It actually has even more protein than chicken at 23 grams of protein per 230 calories and is just as fulfilling. I wrote a bit about it here:

    • Q. Can you both bulk up and lose weight on a vegetarian diet?

      A. It is possible but harder than with a diet that has meat. To achieve the above you need both protein and lower your calories.

      From the meta studies I've looked at the optimal range is between 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Any more protein above that range will simply not be absorbed by the body.

      As far as bulking up I doubt that most people would want to be any bigger than a Nimai Delgado (IFBB Professional Bodybuilder). In the interview with Rich Roll he says that at 180 lbs he needs about 150 grams of protein. Here is a short interview worth watching: